Whether Big Ten football truly creates a presence on the East Coast remains to be seen. But the league will have a presence on the East Coast cable television.
The Big Ten Network and Comcast have reached distribution agreements for both New Jersey and Maryland, officials confirmed Wednesday. The Comcast pact follows similar BTN agreements with both Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, meaning that the network will be available on the three major cable providers servicing New York, Washington D.C., and the surrounding areas.
"It indicates that the Eastern initiative is moving forward in the direction we hoped it would," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com, "and that it means that Big Ten fans and college sports fans will be able to access 24/7 BTN on basic or digital basic carriage. Our goal was to achieve distribution in New York and D.C., Maryland and New Jersey.
"That’s good news for the fans and good news for BTN and Rutgers and Maryland and all Big Ten fans in that region."
That all three deals were done before Rutgers and Maryland officially join the Big Ten on Tuesday is notable. And BTN president Mark Silverman told ESPN.com that the network will be broadly available -- not on a separate sports tier -- before football season kicks off in late August. He's working on reaching similar agreements with smaller East Coast cable providers.
"I wouldn't have thought these deals would all be done before Fourth of July," Silverman said. "We're on a good path, a little ahead of where we thought. It now enables us to focus our attention on what will actually be airing on the network."
Remember those drawn-out and, at times, nasty negotiations between BTN and Comcast in Chicago during the network's launch in 2007? It wasn't much better with providers in other Big Ten markets.
Things certainly have changed with BTN's success in quickly turning a profit and reaching more than 52 million homes.
"We’re established, we’re in 50 million homes and we were hopeful that we would be able to arrive at good distribution deals, but we know sometimes it can be very difficult," Delany said. "We were prepared for that, and also prepared for things where both parties are up front and reasonable, that these things are agreeable. We’ve been able to find a way through Fox and the Big Ten Conference and the Big Ten Network to achieve this at this juncture."